New era begins for Lady Bearcats Softball

By T. Scott Boatright

 

A new era for Ruston High School softball is underway as first-year coach Ashton Guin is set to guide a young team with eight new starters into the 2022 season.

The Lady Bearcats went 16-14 overall last season, starting the season with seven straight wins before struggling in the second half, going only 1-9 in District 2-5A.

But that was then and this is now, and Guin knows it will have to be a unified team effort from a young team to start turning things around toward a brighter future.

“Even the sophomores I do have back weren’t really involved in playing action much last year, so it is kind of like starting a new culture from scratch,” Guin said. “We’ve talked about the fact that we’re going to face a lot of challenges being such a young team. Our motto is, ‘We before me.’ The team understands that we’re going to have to face those challenges together if we want to be successful.”

Guin hopes putting her team to the test early will pay off as the regular season begins. 

“We scheduled challenging scrimmages against Calvary (Baptist), Buckeye and Haughton, and those are some teams that can compete,” Guin said. “And they look exactly what our schedule looks like, so I thought it would be good to hit the ground running against teams like. I wanted to see where we stand.

“In the jamboree played Saturday, we played Mangham and Ouachita Christian. We won against Mangham and lost to OCS, but they were only three-inning games. I really (would have liked to have seen what we would have done) in a full game, but I feel good about the way things turned out. It’s hard to gauge off of three innings.”

Kayla Wilson is the lone returning veteran for the Lady Bearcats after splitting time between the circle, third base and shortstop last year. Wilson hit 11 home runs as a freshman and is expected to provide power at the plate for the Lady Bearcats. 

“She’s our starting pitcher and saw the most action last season out of everyone we have on the team this year,” Guin said. “She was the one on the field last year. Nobody else has been yet. She’s probably our strongest pitcher right now. The other starting pitcher is Riley Atwood, who just learned how to pitch this summer. She’s doing a great job and picked things up pretty quick, so I think she and Kayla will split time pitching about half and half.”

Abby Holton will split time between third base and shortstop for Ruston.

“She can do it all so wherever we have a gap, she’s likely to be there,” Guin said about Holton.  “Right now that gap is between short and third so she’ll be swapping in between those depending on what pitcher is in because Riley and Kayla also play those two positions.

“Abby is a freshman, and is loud and proud. She commands the field and I think she’s going to be one to watch for sure.”

Starting at catcher will be Morgan Foster, a southpaw who Guin said has a cannon of an arm.

“Right now Morgan is one of our more successful hitters and has been leading off for us,” Guin said. “She’s still kind of finding her way on the team. She was playing soccer, so we haven’t gotten to practice with her a lot because that season just recently ended. We just got her back last week.”

Sophomore Shelby Freeman will start for the Lady Bearcats at first base.

“If the ball is even near Shelby, she’s got it,” Guin said. “She’s got a good bat on her and once she gains confidence, I think she’s going to be someone to look at, too.”

Ruston’s second base spot hasn’t been determined yet.

“It’s kind of up in the air right now,” Guin said. “We have two freshmen — Katelyn Stanley and Isabella Tucker — fighting for the spot. They’ve played half and half in the preseason. If I could put them together I’d have the perfect second baseman.”

Murphy DeMoss, a sophomore, will start in center field for the Lady Bearcats.

“She’s our leader in the outfield,” Guin said of DeMoss. “She and Abby are the ones who step up and do the talking on the field and also show leadership in how they play. “

Sophomore JoJo Fernandez will start in left field while also catching some for RHS.

“JoJo swings a strong bat,” Guin said. “She’s one of the greatest kids I’ve ever met and always has a smile on her face. The other day after a scrimmage I told the team that I didn’t think any of them were excited to be out on the field and that I didn’t think I saw a smile, and then everybody looked at JoJo, so I had to say, ‘except for JoJo.’ She’s always got that smile.”

Ruston’s right field spot is still being determined, with sophomore Grace Dotson and Allie Berret.  

“Grace doesn’t have as much experience as everybody, it’s her first year with Ruston softball,” Guin said. “She’s athletic but lacks the softball IQ simply because of inexperience. That will come. “Allie just got back to us after having hip surgery, so right now we’ve been using Grace for defense and Allie to hit as we ease her back into it. She’s another great kid who’s willing to do anything and play anywhere we ask her to.”

Photo: Landon Davis


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